VALDOSTA -- Baseball can be a game of inches, or feet. It was for Lee County and Valdosta.
That's 180 feet, as in how close the tying run was to home, and a few inches, as in how close Justin Coleman's line drive came to falling in.
Lee held off a final-inning Valdosta rally, and defeated the Wildcats 4-3 Friday night.
What had been a 4-1 Trojan lead going into the bottom of the seventh was down to 4-3 with two outs, and the tying run on second.
Valdosta's best hitter, All-Region center fielder Will Petersen, was at the plate. But Lee decided not to take its chances with Petersen and his .500 batting average, and issued him an intentional walk. So it was up to Coleman.
Coleman, who'd tossed six innings of shutout relief, saw a pitch he liked from Lee reliever Justin Hall and ripped it towards the gap in left center. Center fielder Jack Stripling raced after the ball, then as it came down, caught it on the run to end the game.
"We lost, and we hate that, but we should hold our heads high," Valdosta head coach Bart Shuman said. "We did a good job coming back after they got four runs in the first, and we're starting to hit the ball, so we should hold our heads high."
Noah Beaty and John Courson began the seventh inning by drawing walks from Lee starter Gray Jones, then moving up on a wild pitch. Ashley Bonner's grounder to second scored Beaty, making it 4-2.
Then Kurt Lamon ripped a single to left, and Courson crossed the plate to make it 4-3. After that, Lee summoned Hall to pitch. Hall struck out pinch hitter Ryan Cooper for the second out, but Lamon stole second on the third strike, putting the tying run in scoring position. Petersen was then walked, bringing up Coleman.
"We've just got to put this behind us, and hopefully we'll be ready for Tuesday," Shuman said.
Lee looked like it might dominate the game early on. The Trojans jumped on Valdosta starter B.J. Southers for four runs in the first, the last two scoring on a pair of errors by the Wildcat defense.
The Wildcats got one of the runs back in the bottom of the first. Petersen singled to open the inning, then stole second. Coleman's infield single put runners on first and third, then Petersen crossed the plate when Andrew Braley grounded into a double play.
After that, offense was scarce for either team until the bottom of the seventh.
Shuman replaced Southers with Coleman to start the second, and the senior shut down the Trojans the rest of the way. Coleman struck out five, while holding Lee to four hits.
"Justin Coleman pitched a great game in relief," Shuman said. "He did an excellent job."
Lee's biggest scoring threat came in the third, but with runners at first and third, Coleman got Curtis Bowles to ground out to Courson.
In the bottom of the third, Petersen reached third, but Braley's long fly ball was hauled in near the center field wall. In the fifth, the 'Cats had another chance with Ashley Bonner on second, but Jones jammed Petersen with a fastball, inducing a pop-up to second.
Valdosta's pitching staff has yielded only three earned runs the past three games.
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